With the Houston Marathon being the city’s largest single-day sporting event, we know how vital having dedicated volunteers and supporters is during a race, both to the participants and the organizers. In the spirit of the spectators who help make race weekend a success, HMC staff Carly Caulfield and Kimberly Hall spent this past Saturday cheering on the runners, swimmers and bikers at the 2011 Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas on May 21.

Since Houston Marathon Committee member Mitzie Caulfield – Carly’s mom – was competing in the Ironman for the first time, Kimberly helped Carly and her family paint bright yellow signs with encouraging messages to place along the 140.6-mile course.

In 2010, Mitzie, who volunteers as a GRB Resource captain during the Houston Marathon, “wrote in the top of a spiral” that she’d like to be in an Ironman, and after signing up she bought a bike and learned to swim to prepare for the three-discipline race (2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running).

“I always just thought all the people doing it were so courageous and admired them. The people who finish between ten and midnight, those are what make the race to me,” Mitzie said.

As she trained, old injuries popped up –she’s had three knee surgeries from playing tennis and soccer when she was younger – and Mitzie was on crutches three weeks before the race because doctors were afraid she had a stress fracture in her hip. An MRI revealed that she didn’t, so Mitzie pushed through to continue training and finished the race, in part because of the support of her family.

“My family was amazing. In opportune times my family would be in the right place. The first time I saw them on the run was at mile 4, and I started crying. They got me through it,” Mitzie said.

Carly said cheering on her mom throughout the long, humid day was “exhausting and exhilarating,” but something she couldn’t imagine not doing.

“My mom’s supported me my whole life,” she said. “I couldn’t not support her in the best way I could.”

Mark Jacob has been volunteering for the Houston Marathon during race weekend since 1990, when his professor at the University of Houston and longtime marathon volunteer Betty Bollinger “mentored (him) from road guard to take her place as Sector 3 captain when she retired.”

Mark is also an active member of the running community and finishes triathlons and sprint events each year. He was inspired to do the Ironman when he “saw Julie Moss’ famous ‘crawl to the finish line’ in Hawaii many years ago,” he said. “Strangely enough, I thought, ‘I want to do that someday.’ When the Ironman came to Texas and was in the Woodlands, how could I not sign up?”

Mark said it was “interesting to be on the other side of a big event” and his experience made him even more excited about the 2012 Houston Marathon.

“The volunteers were numerous, fanatical and encouraging throughout all the disciplines of the race; I know it couldn’t possibly happen without them. Reminds me of the Chevron Houston Marathon!” he said.“I appreciated their support and encouragement and look forward to giving it back January 14 and 15 in 2012.”

Brandon Adame is another runner who is eagerly anticipating the 2012 race weekend. Brandon finished his first Ironman on Saturday as a visually impaired athlete.

Brandon (pictured on left with guide Nigel Willerton, on right) started to run as a member of the track team at the Texas School for the Blind. Joe Paschal, Adame’s coach and athletic director for the school, runs with C Different, one of fifty-seven Chevron Houston Marathon Run for a Reason Official Charities this year. 

C Different was founded to inspire visually impaired people around the world to lead active and healthy lives and provides sighted guides and additional support to visually impaired athletes, according to its website. With a runner from C Different, Brandon finished his first full marathon in 2011 in Houston and plans to run again in 2012.

Many visually impaired athletes run while tethered to another runner who helps them avoid obstacles such as cracks or bumps in the road and bumping into other runners. Although the challenges they encounter may be different than the ones most runners face, the sense of accomplishment is the same. Brandon said the most satisfying part of finishing any race is “just the fact of getting to the finish line and getting across it.”

For information about the Run for a Reason charity program and which charities you can support during the 2011-2012 race reason, visit our website.

Help us send a big CONGRATS to Mitzi, Mark and Brandon by leaving an encouraging comment for them below!